Rebecca Parson, a democratic socialist running for Congress in the state of Washington, posted a video last week saying if she wins her race, people should occupy empty homes across the country to help her advance a potential housing bill.
Now she’s sending a very different message.
In an interview with Fox News Digital, Parson said she was referring to houses “owned by banks and Wall Street corporations like Zillow and BlackRock.” After a Fox News report identified the potential legal issues involved with occupying property owned by someone else, Parson said that is not what she wants after all.
“I don’t want people to commit a crime,” Parson said.
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Instead, she says, she wants governments to purchase these homes and then use them to help the homeless.
“The idea is there’s this crisis situation with people who need homes and then there’s 28 empty homes for every homeless person in the country,” said Parson, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. “So let’s have the federal government or city and local governments use money to buy these properties and use them for what they’re actually intended for.”
When asked for clarification whether she is calling for people to occupy the homes or just calling on government to purchase them, Parson insisted it was the latter.
“I want people, local and state governments to purchase the homes so people can live in them,” she said.
The video does not mention any of this. Parson, who says she was once homeless, can be seen in the video about to go to sleep in her car, then exiting, walking up to a house with a chain link fence in front and signs saying, “Foreclosed by bank” and “Keep out.” She then pulls the sign down, cuts through the fence and enters the house.
In the background, Rage Against the Machine lyrics “I won’t do what you tell me” can be heard.
“I did what they told me: protests, letters, phone calls. Nothing changed,” Parson says in the video. “So I stopped doing what they told me. We occupied empty buildings and got 200 shelter beds added in our town.”
On Wednesday, Fox News asked Parson what she wanted people to do if not occupy vacant homes. She said they should pressure government officials “through protests in front of their offices or peaceful protests in front of the Capitol building or the White House. Write letters to the editor.”
The video, however, offers a far less traditional strategy that Parson predicts would be effective because of its novelty.
“Imagine I proposed a Housing for All Bill in Congress. Then imagine you, me and a million of our friends took action and occupied empty houses nationwide. They couldn’t ignore us,” she says. “No one has ever done anything like this. That’s why it’s going to work.”
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Fox News asked Parson what she meant by “Imagine you, me and a million of our friends,” and what she wants them to imagine.
“I’m telling them to imagine. Look, if you pressure your local government or pressure your member of Congress or your senator to actually do something to stop just wringing your hands and talking, ‘Oh how terrible, what a complicated problem homelessness is,’” Parson said.
Parson has been a dedicated advocate for the homeless for years, and this has included bold actions that she says have been effective, even if police have been called in the past. In 2020, she was a spokesperson for the group Tacoma Housing Now, which organized a group of homeless people in 16 rooms at a motel in Fife, Washington.
The group paid for one night for the rooms then demanded that the city and state government pay as the people refused to leave. They eventually left when the cops arrived, although Parson noted that no one was arrested.
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Discussing this, Parson explained that local governments had the ability to apply for FEMA money to reimburse hotels to let homeless people stay there. After this incident, she said, the local government started applying for those funds.
“That’s the thing that showed me with these actions, that local governments need a push,” Parson said.
Now she says this “push” should be in the form of more traditional methods of protests, rather than occupying houses.
Parson argued that Congress would do better serving the country by putting money toward homelessness instead of foreign aid like the recent $40 billion package to Ukraine.
“The government has over $40 billion that it can apparently just create on command and send to Ukraine, to Nazis in Ukraine,” she said. “But it can’t afford to [help] people here.”
The ultimate goal of the video, Parson said, was to bring awareness to the homelessness issue.
“With this ad, I just wanted to bring it back and show people that we have this huge problem that everybody’s noticing across the country, homelessness is on the rise,” she said. “It’s a huge problem that affects more people than we think, but there is a solution which is all of these empty homes.”